Nine Spark Students Graduate With Associate Degrees From MCC
This graduation season saw a first for the state of New Hampshire: nine high school students from Spark Academy walked in Manchester Community College’s graduation ceremony at the Fisher Cats Stadium on May 23, seven of them with Associate Degrees in Advanced Manufacturing already under their belts and two who will finish up that degree over the summer.
Ten days later, on June 2, they joined the rest of their class from Spark Academy for their high school graduation ceremony, which took place in the MPR at Manchester Community College (MCC.)
“These kids worked really hard, and their persistence and sheer determination to reach the goal they set for themselves four years ago makes me very proud,” said Dan Larochelle, Advanced Manufacturing Department Chair at MCC and one of Spark Academy’s founders. “Our goals at Spark include teaching kids to be problem solvers, to pivot in the face of the unexpected, and to keep going when they fail. These graduates have done all of these things and more as we created a new school and a new program during a pandemic.”
Spark Academy is a chartered public high school on MCC’s campus and was started in 2019 with just one grade and the goal of creating skilled technicians for NH’s workforce. They offer dual credit via both Running Start and Early College classes, with a focus on Mechatronics.
The nine students who have earned Associate Degrees in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies have also completed certificates in Robotics, Mechatronics, or both. Other Spark graduates are working on degrees in HVAC, Cyber Security Investigations, Life Sciences, and Graphic Arts – and most of them are halfway there already in terms of credits.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t think we could do this,” says John Tuttle, Director of the school. “These kids knocked it out of the park, and we celebrate all of them. They all worked really hard. What a great legacy for our first ever graduating class.”
Spark Academy enjoys a unique partnership with Manchester Community College, enabling them to offer their students dual credit classes starting in their first year of high school as well as a chance to participate in many of the enrichment and volunteer opportunities that are part of student life on the college’s campus.
Members of Spark Academy’s first graduating class have already secured internships at Summit Packaging, Jewell Instruments, and DEKA Research & Development. As the school sends graduates into the workforce to support the booming manufacturing and technologyfields in Greater Manchester, Dan Larochelle is continuing to look ahead. “We are already at work on a pathway for bio fabrication, a newly emerging industry that holds a ton of potential for our students, the city, and human health.” Spark’s graduation keynote speaker was Maureen Toohey of Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) / BIOFAB, who encouraged the young graduates to “do something they love, and make what they do matter.”